Preventing Pastoral Burnout

Preventing Burnout

I was recently honored and invited to speak to a group of leaders who serve providing care for the credentialed ministers in their Ministry Network. Specifically, they are called upon to build relationships and help those serving as lead or staff pastor in their Network churches be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally healthy. No small task in any given year; in our new COVID-19 world that has taken on an all new level of complexity.

I was asked to provide some guidance on how to offer care. I jokingly said that if I was blessed with gifts of Rick Warren I’d try to work my notes into an acronym. I was told that District Superintendent particularly enjoys alliteration. So, with some help from my wife, we came up with some simple “P’s” of Preventing Pastoral Burnout.

4 More Years

Today is December 1st, and in our home that is a pretty significant day.

12 years ago today we welcome our 2nd child, Hailey into the world and the world has never been the same. Birthdays are a big deal in our home, which means we have lots of great December 1st memories. Times Square in NYC, Magnificent Mile in Chicago, the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA, and so many more.

December 1st was also the day I defended my dissertation just down the street from where Hailey was born. Eight years ago today I became “Dr J” and God has used my PhD from Loyola University in some truly humbling ways.

December 1st was also my first day as lead pastor of New Life Assembly of God. Four years ago today our family began a new chapter as I walked into my office for the first time. It has been four years of relying upon God each and every day, and each day He has been faithful.

Yet, despite how significant December 1st has been, I am kind of excited about December 2nd. You see, in all of my years of ministry, or working anywhere for that matter, I have never  been at one place for more than four years. In high school I worked at Market Basket until my 4th anniversary, I then worked for Saturn until Jennifer and I went off to Bible College two years later. Four years at Valley Forge meant four years working for the college and at Sears. After one year at a church in Philadelphia, we had four amazing years in East Brunswick, NJ before heading off to graduate school. We served four years on staff in Annapolis, MD before being voted in as the new lead pastors in Brandywine, MD.

We loved everyday of our time serving in Brandywine, but yet God unexpectedly called us to Bowie where we spent two short but eternally impactful years at Cornerstone Church. And then, in December 1, 2015 I walked into my office for the first time at New Life.

Tomorrow, when I walk into my office, it will be the first time I have every walked into my office after serving there (or anywhere) for four years.

So, I am excited for December 2nd, but I am already looking forward to December 1, 2020. Lord willing, we’ll be serving this great church and community December 1, 2040 and beyond. Each year at this time as we sing happy birthday and watch our amazing daughter grow up, inside I am also saying happy anniversary…and here’s to many more.

What Will It Cost You

We all face challenges in life. We all have barriers or walls that stand in the way of us getting from where we are to where we want to be. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were one of five couples who responded to God’s call to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador, and one of the walls they faced was a language barrier and the fact that no one had successfully made contact with the Huaorani people and lived to tell about it. They went in to the jungle knowing that they may not come out alive, but, as Jim Elliot so famously penned, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim, along with the four other missionary men, gave their lives January 8, 1956 at the hands of the very tribe that had come to share the Gospel with. Continue reading “What Will It Cost You”

Lost My Sucker

I’ve been traveling a bit more than usual as of late. Over the years I have done my fair share of traveling for vacations, mission’s trips and various speaking engagements, but in the past two weeks I have flown in or out of Chicago, Miami, Panama, Bolivia, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles. It was my most recent flight for a conference in southern California that provided an unexpected interaction that will not soon be forgotten. Continue reading “Lost My Sucker”

The Insanity of God

I will be forever grateful for a few things from this year’s 21-day fast. First of all, I will never forget the way my church embraced God’s calling to come together and fast. Men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, all walks of life, took a step of faith from their comfort zones and decided to fast from something in order to fast for something. I have heard stories of marriages reconciled, bodies healed, financial miracles, and deep and profound steps deeper in one’s faith and trust in God. There is truly something powerful that happens when we decrease the distractions and increase our time with God. Having a unified church family that was walking through this corporate journey in their own individual and personal way was beautiful and humbling to watch. Our church family will truly never be the same again. Continue reading “The Insanity of God”

The Difficulties of Unplugging on Vacation

It was well over a year ago that I first read the personnel manual of the church that had elected me to be their new lead pastor. It was not the first church that I had been called by God to lead, but it was the first that had gone out of their way to articulate such a generous vacation offer for their pastoral staff. All pastors, not just the lead pastor, would be given a tiered number of weeks off based upon their number of years in full time ministry to the Kingdom of God. My wife and I have been called to serve churches in Philadelphia, Central New Jersey, and for the past decade, three churches in the Baltimore-DC corridor, and with each new church that God had led us to the clock would reset as we would start over at day one. This was the first church that we walked into where we had already accumulated some vacation time to spare. Continue reading “The Difficulties of Unplugging on Vacation”

What is your favorite season?

What is your favorite season? What do you like best about it? Now let me ask you what season you look forward to the least? Why?

We all have our reasons for preferring one season over another, just as we may have our reasons for disliking aspects of one or more season. I have a favorite season much like most others, and there are some things that come along with some seasons that I don’t particularly enjoy. The one thing, though, that all four seasons share in common is that they were created by God. God doesn’t make mistakes, so each season has a purpose. Continue reading “What is your favorite season?”

Two Questions

There are only two questions you need to ask yourself; are you happy or are you unhappy?

If you are happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you be happy or will you stay unhappy?

If you’ll be happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll still be unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; are you healthy or sick?

If you are healthy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are sick, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you get better or not?

If you’ll get better, then you have nothing to worry about

If not, then you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you live or die?

If you’ll live, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll die, you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you go to heaven or will you go to hell?

If you’ll go to heaven, then you have nothing to worry about…

 

It sorts of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it? There are a lot of things to worry about in life, but only a few things that truly matter. Continue reading “Two Questions”

Did not understand

Quick thought for today. When Jesus fed the 5,000 in Mark 6, the disciples had a front row seat. They saw some pretty amazing things in their day, and this had to be atop the list. Problem is, they didn’t get it. They did not understand what was going on. From their limited perspective they could not see or comprehend who Jesus truly was (at least not yet) and it effected their hearts.

A few verses later we see Jesus walking on the lake–perhaps a new “top of the list” miracle for them to not understand. Scripture records that they were completely amazed (6:51), but pay careful attention to what they very next verse reveals. “..[T]hey had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (6:52, NIV)” The lack of understanding impacts our hearts.

We need to constantly guard our hearts, and sometime what we need to guard them most from is our own lack of understanding. A bigger and more accurate perspective can be a great way to do some heart surgery. So try listening more, seeing things from your spouse’s perspective, and realizing that there may be more to what you see than what your perceptions are telling you.

Footprints in the Snow

Last night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the snow: one belonged to me, the other to the Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the snow. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.  “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Continue reading “Footprints in the Snow”